Film Face-off: Woody Harrelson vs. John Goodman

Film Face-off: Woody Harrelson vs. John Goodman

Dec 09, 2013

The side character needs more attention, and this week for the Film Face-off we're going to focus on two of the best. John Goodman continues his wonderful work with the Coen brothers new film Inside Llewyn Davis. At this stage, it always feels a little sad if Joel and Ethan Coen don't employ Goodman for one of their films. Woody Harrelson is slowly entering in Goodman's territory. I'm not talking about his size, though his presence has felt larger than life at times, and that continues with Out of the Furnace. When you see the credits role, and either one of their names appears after the lead, there is a relaxation that happens. You know you're in good hands. So, overall, who's hands are better to be in? That's the question in this week's Film Face-off with Woody Harrelson vs. John Goodman.


Their TV Careers

Woody Harrelson

Harrelson starred as Woody Boyd, a naive kid bartender from Indiana in Cheers. He played Woody for 201 episodes from 1985-1993. He was nominated for an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor six times, and won in 1989.

John Goodman

Goodman played Dan O'Conner, a working-class husband and father in Roseanne. This was from 1988-1997 for 221 episodes. He was nominated for an Emmy for Best Lead Actor six times, and never won.

Winner: Woody Harrelson. I almost gave Goodman the win here, just because it's insane to think he never won an Emmy. Plus, he had to put up with Roseanne Barr. I loved both characters, but Harrelson gets the win for a few reasons. I had big city dreams, growing up in Iowa, and Woody was a hilarious gateway character for me. He was an escape, and all too often, Dan O'Conner was a dose of reality. Even more though, Woody was a higher degree of difficult. When Nicholas Colasanto died, it seemed impossible for someone to fill the void of Coach. The sweet innocence that Harrelson brought to the role allowed us to continue to miss Coach and like Woody.


Their Leading Roles

Woody Harrelson

Harrelson's notable lead roles in films include RampartThe People vs. Larry FlyntNatural Born KillersKingpinIndecent Proposal and White Men Can't Jump.

John Goodman

Goodman's lead roles include Monsters UniversityMonsters, Inc.The FlintstonesMatineeThe Babe and King Ralph.

Winner: Woody Harrelson. If rewatchability were the main factor here for these films, this would be a colossal victory for Harrelson, especially because I could be convinced that Goodman was supporting for his voice work as James P. "Sulley" Sullivan. If you truly examine Harrelson's lead work, his performance is rarely the most notable in the film. In Kingpin, we focus on the genius of Bill Murray and how his combover crushes Harrelson's. With Indecent Proposal the attention is put on Robert Redford and Demi Moore. With White Men Can't Jump, it's the swagger of Wesley Snipes. Only in Rampart is his performance bigger than the situation of the film or the supporting cast. With all of that being said... King Ralph.


Their Forgotten Performances

Woody Harrelson

In 2006, A Prairie Home Companion came out, and almost no one saw it. It made $20 million at the box office, and Harrelson played Dusty, half of a singing cowboy duo.

John Goodman

In 1984, Revenge of the Nerds made $40 million. People saw it, but Goodman's performance as Coach Harris is rarely remembered. It should be.

Winner: John Goodman. Most of us fondly remember Revenger of the Nerds from our childhood. The same people think Teen Wolf stands the test of time. Let's be honest. Revenge has 15 funny minutes in an otherwise flat film. When you do choose to rewatch it, you'll grab on to Goodman's performance, especially his inspiring speech to go attack some nerds. This was a close one, as I could also listen to Dusty and Lefty (John C. Reilly) sing "Bad Jokes" for eternity. The problem here is that Reilly outshines Harrelson.


Their Best Supporting Roles

Woody Harrelson

I won't be going back to Hank Gordon from Doc Hollywood, or his recent role as Charlie in Seven Psychopaths. It's his Oscar-nominated performance in The Messenger as recovering alcoholic Captain Tony Stone, who along with Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), give notice to the families of fallen soldiers.

John Goodman

The answer is not Big Dan Teague from O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Nor is it Gale Snoats from Raising Arizona, or either 2012 film (Flight or Argo). It is the khaki shorts, goatee and yellow-tinted glasses of Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski.

Winner: John Goodman. The genius that is The Big Lebowski is that everyone is a character. They are wonderfully fictitious individuals and while no one burns as bright as the Dude, Walter commands your attention when he's on-screen. Let's just fill the rest of this section with one of Goodman's many brilliant deliveries as Walter. "You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don't wanna know about it, believe me."


Their New Movies

Woody Harrelson

Harrelson plays Harlan DeGroat in Out of the Furnace, a slow-burning thriller in which Russell (Christian Bale) seeks revenge when his brother (Casey Affleck) disappears.

John Goodman

Goodman plays traveling musician Roland Turner in Inside Llewyn Davis, which is about a week in the life of folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac). Their paths cross in a trip to Chicago.

Winner: John Goodman. It's almost a cameo, and Goodman shouldn't even be consider "supporting" here because he completely grabs hold and steals the film when he's on-screen. I really like the film, the music, the tone and the overall purpose of Inside Llewyn Davis, and technically all of it could exist without Goodman's character. It's as though Joel and Ethan Coen simple wrote down, "We need a jolt here," and then cast Goodman. It felt like a lull was coming, and through the fantastic script, and Goodman's delivery, he wakes up the film and takes it to a place I didn't see coming. Harrelson's Harlan is more integral in Out of the Furnace, and whenever you can start a film with Harrelson vomiting out of a car at a drive-in theater, you must do it. Furnace is a little too simple, and so is Harrelson's character for him to steal this category away from Goodman.


OVERALL WINNER: John Goodman defeats Woody Harrelson, 3-2.

When it comes to support, nobody holds your film up better than Goodman. Harrelson is getting there. Heck, even Haymitch Abernathy from The Hunger Games franchise is growing on me. It was a close match, but if you look at the supporting categories, Goodman took those 3-0. At this point, it would actually be weird to see Goodman lead a film. There aren't many roles for an aging overweight lead, even with the unfortunate early death of James Gandolfini. Goodman knows where his bread is heavily buttered, and it doesn't look like he will be giving up his role as leading sidekick anytime soon with George Clooney's The Monuments Men coming next year.




Categories: Features, In Theaters
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